Below are the sermons by the Rev. Winchester to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of Bonkle Church. These were published in the Wishaw Press.
Wishaw Press, August 20 1937
Bonkle Church Bi - Centenary
CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH IT AROSE
THE MOOR KIRK OF CAMBUSNETHAN
At the forenoon service in Bonkle Church last Sunday the Rev. James Winchester BD. delivered the first of his addresses dealing with the founding of the ancient church of Bonkle which has now passed the 200th milestone in its forward march. In the course of his address he said -
Bonkle Church has reached this summer the 200th year of its history, and it seem fitting that we should remind ourselves of the days of its beginnings and the circumstances in which it arose. This will take us back to the times of controversy and division and to an atmosphere very different to that of today. During these weeks there is gathered in Edinburgh a very notable conference on Faith and Order, in which almost all the Protestant Churches are represented, in an endeavour to realise their brotherhood and unity. We all welcome this spirit. It may lead some to ask, were the old splits and divisions worth while? Was the secession something which Christian Scotland could have done better without? The answer to my thinking is an emphatic "No". Like the disruption of 100 years later, it was the action of men who put what they felt to be loyalty to God and conscience above all other considerations. The different sections of the church have each had their own special contribution to make to the religious life of Scotland and the United Church is the richer today as it seeks to gather these ideals into its fuller life and service.
Let me try to tell you as clearly and impartially as I can how the Secession Church arose, the movement in which Bonkle Church was one of the earliest congregations.
The year 1688 is memorable in British history as the date of the revolution, when the last of the Stewart Kings, James II., was driven from the throne and Protestantism was firmly established under William and Mary. In the revolution settlement which followed in 1690 Presbyterianism was finally restored in Scotland and the dark days of the persecution of the Covenantors came to an end. A very important act of the Scottish Parliament of that year was the abolition of patronage in the Church. When the Covenantors were in power they made it a law that congregations should choose their own minister, but when Charles II. came to the throne this was set aside and the right of appointing a minister to a vacant congregation was granted to the chief landowner in a parish who was known as the patron. This was now put to and end and it became the duty of the "heritors and elders to name and propose the minister of the whole congregation, to be approved or disapproved by them".
This was further confirmed in the Act of Security when the Union of the Parliaments of England and Scotland came about in 1707.
Alas for the hopes of peace and concord in our land. Only five years had passed when the united Parliament restarted the rights of the patrons.
Historians of all schools are united in denouncing this Act of the restoration of patronage. Dr Charles Warr of St. Giles, in his recent volume on "The Presbyterian Tradition," speaks of it as a "shameless act of Parliament engineered by the Jacobite party and in flagrant violation of the Treaty of Union." "By it" he continues, "the Church was done one of the most scandalous wrongs in its much wronged history." 162 years were to pass ere in 1874 patronage was finally abolished in the Church of Scotland and the last trace of this source of so much heart burning and strife was wiped out.
This Patronage Act of 1712 was the beginning of the new trouble for the Church and it led in 1733 to the forming of the Secession Church. What was the Church of Scotland to do in face of this law of the land? The first endeavour was to organise a general strike against it. But the keen feeling did not continue in all quarters. It must be remembered that there were ministers who had been Episcopalians in Charles II time and had conformed at the revolution. They and many of their people did not look at the matter in the same way as those did who had been reared in the Covenanting tradition.
Further, the return to patronage was not felt all at once, for nominees were shy at accepting presentations and many patrons were slow at urging their claims, but as days went by many of the patrons pressed their rights and forced upon congregations ministers who were very unwelcome. Sometimes these settlements, intrusions as they were called, had to made by the help of the military.
Influences at work
I wish you to realise the various influences that were at work in different parts of the country so that we may understand how the Secession began with four ministers in contrast, for example, with the nation-wide nature of the Disruption movement.
Let us turn now to the year 1732 when this Patronage Act had been in force for 20 years. In that year a special circumstance brought matters to a vital issue. In the previous year an overture had been presented to the General Assembly on the question of what was to be done when a patron had not pressed his claim and six months had elapsed without the congregation coming to a decision. The recommendation was that in that case the heritors and elders were to be at liberty to call a minister and ask the Presbytery to induct him without consulting the members of the congregation. Dr. Warr considers it a reasonable injunction in the circumstances.
There was however, a strong opposition to it in the Church and also in the General Assembly. The matter was sent down to the Presbyteries, and when the reports came in before the Assembly of 1732 only 6 Presbyteries had given absolute approval and 31 had decisively rejected the overture.
In spite of this the Assembly carried the overture and it became an Act.
The leader of the opposition that day was Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, minister of Stirling. He protested against it and against the high handed way in which it had been carried into the law of the Church. He was Moderator of the Synod of Perth and Stirling, and in the sermon he preached before the Synod that year he spoke strongly against the Act. This led to action being taken against him by the Synod. He was declared worthy of censure for having spoken disrespectfully of an Act of General Assembly.
Time forbids us to follow in detail the dramatic developments. The case came up at the next Assembly. He was rebuked and admonished from the chair without being allowed to read his protest which had been countersigned by three other ministers.
That might have been the end of the matter, but that protest which he had left on the Assembly table slipped to the floor and was picked up by the minister of Dalmeny who passionately called upon the Assembly to let him read what he called its insufferable insult. The words of the protest so read "set the Assembly in a flame". Erskine and three others who had signed it were called again before the House and by a large majority they were bidden to appear before the August Commission to express their regret and retract the words they had written. This they were unwilling to do, and after being suspended from their ministries, they were on 16th November 1733 loosed from their charges and their churches were declared to be vacant.
It is well to remember that seven out of fifteen Synods asked for stay proceedings, but the Commission of November, by the casting vote of the Moderator, declared them "no longer ministers of this Church".
It is a painful story. "The treatment Erskine received," writes Professor Henderson of Aberdeen in his recent pamphlet on The Kirk through the Centuries," "was high handed and unsympathetic." His conduct was regarded as involving disloyalty to courts which he had sworn to obey. He, on the other hand, regarded himself as a sufferer for conscience's sake; and in the interest of the Headship of Christ over His Church he and his friends formally seceded from the Church of Scotland.
Let us have one glimpse at Ebenezer Erskine, the leader of the movement. The words are Professor Henderson's: "Superlatively pious, deeply conscientious, puritanically stern, Erskine made a redoubtable champion of independence." He was a great preacher. "You never heard Ebenezer Erskine," said the famous Adam Gibb of Bristo. "Well, sir, you never heard the gospel in its majesty."
At Gairney Bridge, south of Kinross, Erskine with three others - Rev. Wm. Wilson of Perth, Rev. James Fisher of Kinclaven, and Rev. Alex Moncrieff of Abernethy - met on 5th December, 1733, and formed themselves into a Presbytery which they called "The Associate Presbytery." Soon after they were joined by the Rev. Ralph Erskine and Rev. Thomas Muir.
It is worthy of note that in their protest, while declaring that they were obliged for many weighty reasons to make a Secession from their brethren, they appealed to the first free, faithful and reforming General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to justify their action. Part of that justification came very soon.
When the Assembly met next year the Act of 1732 that had caused all the trouble, known as the Act anent the Method of Planting Vacant Churches, was declared to have been passed contrary to the Barrier Act and to be no longer binding on the Church. The Assembly took the further step of empowering the Synod of Perth and Stirling to restore the four brethren to their charges, and the Synod was ready to do this unanimously and resolved to elect Erskine as Moderator.
But they did not see their way to return. They appreciated the welcome back, but we must realise there were other points of difference between them and many of their brethren in addition to this matter of the popular election of ministers. There was the important one of the method of presenting the Gospel of God's grace in Christ. It would lead us much too far to enter upon this matter and hope to justice to all concerned, but there is no doubt that there was an evangelical fervour in their outlook which separated them from the moderatism of many of their fellow - ministers.
To show the perplexed state of religion in some parts of our land at that time let me cite the case of Rev. Archibauld Rennie, the minister who held the candle while in the growing darkness Erskine read his protest at one of the Commissions before which he was summoned. Within a year Rennie was "intruded" into the parish of Muckhart by help of the military, his call having the support of only two members of the congregation and one resident heritor.
For fifty years he possessed the manse and drew the stipend, but never dispensed the Sacrament and only once entered the pulpit.
There was indeed in those days a place for the Secession Church, and that was fully revealed by the welcome that greeted the movement. Praying Societies, as they were called, had been formed up and down the country, composed of those who resented the intrusion of a patron's nominee , or those who were dissatisfied with the religious teaching they were receiving. Many of those who gathered in these weekly meetings came together in monthly gatherings known as "The Association," and delegates from the Association met once a year in what was called "The Correspondence," a sort of informal Synod. There was the Correspondence of Annandale, of West Lothian, of East of Fife and so on. Here was ground prepared for the development of the Secession Church. It was not until the year 1737 that any organisation of new congregations took place, beyond the four congregations which had followed Ebenezer Erskine and his three fellow - members of the new Presbytery.
In that year (1737), however, twelve additional congregations were formed and Bonkle Church heads the list of these. It is spoken of as the Muirkirk of Cambusnethan. Let me now tell you why and how it was formed.
Mr Lockhart of Castlehill was the patron who had the right to present a minister to Cambusnethan Church. There was a vacancy there in 1733 and he presented a Mr Wm. Craig, a probationer, Sir James Stewart of Goodtrees, supported by the elders and parishioners disputed Mr Lockhart's right of presentation and petitioned the Presbytery to hear Mr Linning, another probationer, and to have the free choice of a minister. This the Presbytery refused, and the matter was appealed to the General Assembly. The General Assembly of 1734 remitted it back to Presbytery with instructions to proceed to the settlement of the parish "as they shall judge best for the edification of that congregation." More than one endeavour was made to bring about harmony and preachers were sent to supply the vacancy.
MEETING IN 1737
At length we learn of a meeting on 5th January, 1737, when the Presbytery met with the congregation and a majority at the meeting voted for Mr Craig. Seeing, however, that most of the elders, and a great number of the people were not willing to fall in with the decision, the Presbytery sent a committee to try and persuade them to agree to Mr Craig's election. They had no success in this endeavour.
At a meeting at which they gave in their report, a protest was submitted by David Downie, one of the elders, in his own name and in the name of another six out of the nine elders of the congregation. Another protest was read by Robert Keddar, elder, in the name of several heritors and life - renters, and still another by John Steill, elder, in the name of a considerable number of heads of families. The name is spelt Steill, but he is one of the ancestors of our present members, Messrs John and James Steel, and their sisters of Summerside Farm.
In spite of these protests Mr. Craig was ordained minister of Cambusnethan on 20th April, 1737. After trying vainly for a year to reconcile the people to his settlement he accepted a call to a church in Glasgow.
Meantime, on the 14th June, 1937, a Praying Society in Calderwater, which had existed since the days of Renwick, the last martyr of the Covenant, presented a petition to the Associate Presbytery of the Secession Church, to be taken under their inspection. This petition was accompanied by a "paper of adherence signed by most of the male population of Cambusnethan Parish."
On the third of August, 1737, the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine and Rev. Ralph Erskine were sent to observe a fast and dispense religious ordinances to the Seceders assembled in the neighbourhood of Davies Dykes. So began the Muirkirk of Cambusnethan.
The Muirkirk of Cambusnethan
Bonkle Minister’s Interesting Address
Looking back over 200 years
Last Sunday the second of the specials services in connection with the bi-centenary of Bonkle Church was held and another of very interesting and informative address was delivered by the Reverend James Winchester BD who said:-
I resume the story of our congregation.
In order to link on my present address with that of last Sunday let me remind you of the keen resentment awakened throughout our land by the reintroduction of Patronage into the Church in 1712. This led to the secession in 1733 when four ministers headed by the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine of Stirling left the Church of Scotland and formed a separate Presbytery at Gairney Bridge, near Kinross. Their congregations followed them, but no further charges were formed until the year 1737. Of the 12 then sanctioned by them, this congregation was the first, under the name of the Muirkirk of Cambusnethan.
The two dates of special interest in that year in connection with the Muirkirk (spelt also Moorkirk) were the 14th of June and the 3rd of August. On the former date there was presented to the Presbytery of the Secession Church, called the "Associate Presbytery," a request from the Seceders in Cambusnethan Parish to be "taken under their inspection." The moving body in that petition was a Praying Society in Calderwater which dated from the days of Renwick, the last martyr for the Covenant, who died in 1688. They forwarded along with their request a paper of adherence signed by a great number of the inhabitants of Cambusnethan Parish. ( Another account says, by "most of the male population of the parish.") This was further accompanied by the " Testimony emitted by them."
These last words are important. The Secession Presbytery laid great stress upon the "Testimony" of those they admitted. They had no desire to make their Churches simply gathering places for dissatisfied people. This is made clear from a Secession Presbytery record of 5th April of that year. Application had been made from corresponding societies within the parish of Carluke and Carstairs, craving for admission as congregations. In reply they were recommended to " consider their Act and Testimony and lay before the Presbytery a more distinct account of their case."
A Fast Day
On July 12th the Presbytery arranged that a fast be observed in Cambusnethan on Wednesday, 3rd August, and appointed Rev. Ralph Erskine to attend to the "solemn work of that day." It happened to be the day of the annual fair at Shotts, but that fact did nothing to reduce the attendants at the services. The crowd left the market place early and travelled the five miles to Davies Dykes.
Reverend William Fleming in the Centenary Address he delivered here quotes the saying of that time that "the skailing of the fair as like the skailing of a kirk." So disappointed were the sellers that day that they did not return to Shotts next year. From Reverend Ralph Erskine's diary we learn that he and his brother preached in a tent that day to a very great auditory. He baptised 28 children. It is interesting to note that of these, 14 where from the parish of Carluke. He also held a Session with the Elders. He adds that they were very kindly entertained by the people of that place.
So the Muirkirk of Cambusnethan started on its way with a tent for its meeting place, or the open moorland. (Dr McKelvie says that the congregation worshipped in the open air for more than three years.) Further they where without a Minister for other five years, during which the task of edifying the people lay in the hands of the elders and the preachers that where sent them about once a month. Reverend Ralph Erskine visited them again in 1739, and next year a church was built on a piece of waste ground obtained from Mr Robert Keddar, who, (as I mentioned last Sunday), was one of the elders who read a protest at the Hamilton Presbytery against the intrusion of Mr William Craig.
It was not, however, until 29 September, 1742 that Reverend David Horn was ordained as the first minister of the congregation. He came to a large and widely scattered flock, drawn from at least 22 parishes. The only link I can find with his ministry is that supplied by some tokens in the possession of Mr R. K. Hinshalwood, our loved elder to whom our hearts go out very fully at this time of his great weakness. Let me explain to our younger people that tokens, flat pieces of lead about half an inch square, were used instead of communion cards for the Sacrament.
It is anticipating in my story, but you may be interested to know that Communion cards where not substituted for tokens in our church here until February 1900. Before that time, during the short interval between the Action Sermon, as it was called, and the Table Service on Communion Sundays, the elders gathered in a circle at the door of the church and handed a token to each member of their district as the congregation came out. The members returned again for the Sacrament as soon as preparations had been made for that service. On the tokens that I speak of - the first used in the this congregation - along with the date, 1744, there are the letters D.H., the initials of the minister.
Items of interest regarding Reverend Mr Horn are his having helped in the preparation of the Synod's Catechism, and having preached a sermon on a particular occasion, which was published - at the request of his hearers - as of special merit. More important is the fact that it was during his ministry that the "Breach" took place in 1747, the lamentable division of the Secession Church into Burghers and Anti-Burghers. The expressions are familiar to many of you and you may welcome a word or two of explanation. All Burgessses in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Perth had for many years (probably since 1572), been required to take an oath whose first clause ran: - "Here I protest before God and your Lordships that I profess and allow with my heart the true religion presently professed within this realm and authorised by the laws thereof: I shall abide thereat and defend the same to my life's end, renouncing the Roman religion called Papistry."
Those who refused to take this oath were prevented from voting, from joining a trade guild, and from carrying on business in the borough.
When the Presbyteries of the Secession Church were formed into a Synod in 1745 the question arose, "Did the signing of this simply imply that you subscribed to the Protestant faith, or did it involve your committing yourself to the religion of the land as by law established?" Those who held the former view found no difficulty in taking the oath, and were called Burghers. Those who took the latter view held that those taking the oath had no right to continue in the Secession Church. They therefore broke off from them and formed the Anti-Burgher Synod. The "Breach" was not healed for 73 years. The reconciliation came about by all agreeing to seek the abolition of the religious clause. (On the eve of their Union in 1820 the oath was abolished by Parliament owing to the intervention of the Convention of Royal Burghs).
How deep the division went will be seen from the fact that at the reunion there were 139 Burgher Congregations and 123 Anti-Burgher. Rev. David Horn and his congregation held to the Burgher side. Going back to his ministry we find that he retired, from ill-health, in 1768, and a vacancy of seven years followed, during which four different ministers were sought for unsuccessfully. At length in 1775 the Rev. Wm. Scot accepted the call of the congregation and occupied the pulpit for 36 years. This Mr Scot's name is spelt with one "t" and this helps to distinguish him from his better-known successors. During his time as minister the church was rebuilt and enlarged in the year 1780, the thatched roof giving place to one of slate.
In the time of his ministry, as in that of his predecessor, a bitter controversy divided the Secession Church in 1800 into New Lights and Old Lights. By it the Muirkirk lost a third of its members and three of its elders, and it left "a withering blight from which the congregation took 20 years to recover." No account of the congregation or of the Secession movement would be complete without a short reference to this dispute. We must not shut our eyes to the fact that the Confession of Faith as well as the Solemn League and Covenant "authorise and advocate the use of force to uphold and propagate the true religion and to extirpate the false." The "New Light" of tolerance in religious matters at first shone but dimly. At length it broke forth so brightly for the Secession Church that in the Basis of Union when the Burghers and Anti-Burghers came together, they "declared against all compulsory or persecuting and intolerant principles in religion."
Before that day came the Burgher and Anti-Burgher sections were each broken up into Old Lights and New. The Old Lights spirit is made clear in the Deed of Constitution of one of its sections which asserts "the duty and warrantableness of civil rulers employing their authority in an active support of the interests of religion and the Kingdom of Christ." In a word then, the New Lichts as they were called, stood for toleration in religion: the Old Lichts advocated compulsory measures to make what they felt to be the true religion to prevail.
The end of the controversy in the Secession Church came when in 1820 the New Light or tolerant sections of the Burghers and Anti-Burghers joined together to from the United Associate Synod of the Secession Church. None of the Old Lights came into that reunion. The Old Lights of the Burgher section joined the Church of Scotland in 1839 and came out with the Free Church in 1843. The Old Lights of the Anti-Burgher section took the name, the Original Secession Church. The main body of these joined the Free Church in 1852. Those who did not, continue today as the Original Secession Church.
I have heard these divisions in the Secession Church criticised as if the Seceders were forever quarrelling among themselves. Those who so speak would not do so, I am sure, if they had looked more closely into the matter. In an intolerant age when so many in our land, in the words of one writer, "would suffer none to worship God but in the form which they were pleased to ordain.", the New lights were the Apostles of tolerance. If today we rejoice in greater liberty of conscience and know nothing of religious persecution we owe it in no small measure to the courage of these Secession Fathers.
As I have mentioned, the Muirkirk held to the New Light side of this controversy by two-thirds of its number, the other third including three elders leaving the congregation. Rev. Mr Fleming speaks of the "withering blight" of that time of dispute. On the other hand, we may well believe that the new spirit of religious liberty, which at length predominated, would be a real factor in the success that attended the ministry of Reverend Andrew Scott, of which I shall speak next Sunday.
Reference to the reduction in the membership of the Muirkirk over the New Light controversy leads me to speak of another way in which the congregation was curtailed from its earlier very wide extension. This was through the forming of new congregations in the surrounding parishes. The case of Shotts is an interesting example. Owing to a forced settlement in the Kirk of Shotts in 1738 two elders and a considerable number of members seceded and asked to be received into the Secession Church. Reverend Ralph Erskine visited the congregation in 1739 and baptised their children, but when Reverend David Horn was ordained to this congregation in 1742 the Shotts dissenters were included in its membership and three elders from among them joined the Kirk Session.
Twenty-six years later when another bitter dispute led to a fresh and larger secession from the Kirk of Shotts, a secession church was formed there and the members from Shotts on the Muirkirk roll were transferred to it. In an allied way disjunctions were given to memembers helping to form congregations at Biggar, Whitburn, Lanark, Braehead, and Carluke. From these, as years went on, other congregations arose. Thus it came about that 100 years after the founding of this congregation, there were in the 22 parishes from which its membership had at first been drawn, 29 Presbyterian churches supported by voluntary contributions. (A few of these came directly from the allied Relief movement of 1761.)
Five Years' Vacancy
Turning once more to the story of the Kirk on the Muir, we find that Reverend William Scott resigned in 1811, and a vacancy of five years followed until the auspicious day arrived when Reverend Andrew Scott became your minister in 1816. Two years later the congregation moved to Bonkle and a church was built upon this present site in 1818. Thus the old church at Davies Dykes was given up. The decision to make the change to Bonkle was doubtless hastened by the fact that the lease of the property on the moor was about to expire. The building remaind in a state of neglect until 1843, when it was fitted up and occupied as a Roman Catholic chapel for their benefit of the navvies employed in the putting of the railway through to Morningside. For years thereafter it was a roofless. It passed at length to Mr Pender, the father of our present member at Davies Dykes, and was used by him as a farm steading. It is now again derelict.
I doubt not that you have all made the pilgrimage at some time or other to these ruins near Dura where your fathers worshipped for 78 years. I hope that the memories I have recalled will make that place for us all a sacred spot, and that as often as we pass it, some inspiring remembrance will come to us of those who in the days of great trial and perplexity in our land stood out bravely for what they felt to be the will of God, and were willing to sacrifice so much for conscience sake and for "the Headship of Christ in his church."
Bonkle Church from 1800
Long and Interesting Ministries
In Bonkle Church last Sunday the Reverend James Winchester, BD, gave the third of his series of addresses dealing with the history of that church over a period of two hundred years. He said -
Last Sunday I brought the story of our congregation down to the year 1818 when the Muirkirk was closed and the first Church was built at Bonkle on this present site. Looking back for a little I would like to make a short further reference to the Reverend William Scott whose ministry at the Muirkirk closed in 1811 and who had gone through the trying time of the New and the Old Light controversy. He was man of scholarly habits as is shown by a book of his sermons published by his widow. They were mostly delivered at Communion seasons. Reverend William Fleming of West Calder, in the centenary address he delivered in 1842 (the centenary of Reverend David Horn's ordination) speaks of the inspiration of these occasions at which he occasionally assisted.
After his retiral you had a vacancy of five years which was ended in April, 1816 by the ordination of the Reverend Andrew Scott, who ministered to the congregation for the long period of 55 years. For 43 of these he was sole minister, and then in 1859 he was joined by his son, Reverend James Henderson Scott, as colleague and successor. They laboured together for 11 years. In 1870 Reverend Andrew Scott passed away at the ripe age of 79 years.
The active ministry of the Reverend James Henderson Scott extended for another 40 years until the 8th August, 1910, when he became Minister Emeritus and was succeeded by Reverend George Frazer, MA. Reverend James Scott was, however, in close touch with the congregation, taking a keen interest in its affairs, and while Reverend Mr Frazer was on war service he frequently presided at meetings of Kirk Session. He passed to his rest at the full age of the 83 years, leaving a very gracious memory after having been your minister for 58 years. Thus the combined ministries in your midst of father and son as this handsome tablet on my right hand reminds you, extended from 9th April, 1816, to 17th March, 1917, the unique period of almost a 101 years.
I have put these facts succinctly before you that we may all follow now more easily a detailed account of these two remarkable men whose lives are woven so deeply into the story of our historic congregation.
Reverend Andrew Scott
I shall occupy this address mainly with the life and ministry of Reverend Andrew Scott, grandfather of Mr Andrew Scott, our Clerk of Managers, and of his sisters. His birthplace was Harthill Farm, 4 miles south of Lanark, and his father was an honoured elder of the church here, whose habit of regular retiral in the evenings to the quiet of the barn for private devotions early attracted the interest of his young son. One of the memorable experiences of the young man's life was the time of the serious illness through which he passed during the course of his studies for the ministry. In those days the theological preparation in the Secession Church was by summer courses of 3 months at Selkirk. Their professors would be ministers in charges, who at a later date where freed from congregational work for the three months of lecturing to the students. It was during one of these summer sessions that he was laid down with serious inflammation and had to be removed home, riding on horseback the 50 miles, while his father walked by his side in deepest anxiety. His college friends thought sadly that they had seen the last of him, but under careful nursing he gradually came back to health.
Let me now continue the story by an extract from his "Reminiscences" found later among his papers. "One morning when he was in much distress - in doubt about recovery, and in anxiety concerning his soul - he turned to the window where his mother's well-used Bible was lying and said "I am sure that embodies consolation, and I will search till I find it." Having no predilection for one part above another, nor intending in the least degree to make a lottery of the Bible, he simply resolved to open and read on. How surprised was he that the first of words that caught his eye where (2 Chron., 29 - 11): "My Sons, be not now negligent: for the Lord hath chosen you to stand before Him, to serve him, and that ye should minister unto him and burn incense." He was greatly taken by surprise, for he did not recollect having seen that passage before. It therefore seemed to him (not withstanding the plural number) "as much a personal demand as if an Angel had pronounced it from heaven. It inspired his mind with the probability that he would be spared for a while to officiate in the gospel ministry: and the frequent recollection of it through half a centenary afterwards stimulated him to diligence in his Master’s service."
Having completed his theological course he was licensed. He gave his "first day" to his old minister in Lanark, and the next Sabbath he was appointed to preach in the Muirkirk. During the long vacancy of more then five years the church had got "sadly into parties" and his coming as a candidate was eagerly looked forward to by the congregation. Many of the members had heard of him, some had heard him preach, some had even gone the length of sounding him at an earlier stage and were waiting for him. In a long and most appreciative sermon published in the United Presbyterian Magazine we read, "His appearance at once took the eye of all, grave, majestic and comely." He preached, and dissension was at an end in the congregation. It was a most enthusiastic call. Two other congregations at Lillesleaf and Auchtermuchty, invited him at the same time, but he resolved to respond to the invitation from the Muirkirk, and so all began on 9th April, 1816 a ministry which grew in richness and power as the years went by.
The Move to Bonkle
After two years the congregation moved to Bonkle. It is of interest to note the varieties in the spelling of the word as revealed in the minutes of that time - Buncle, Bunkle, Bunkell, Bonkell, again the "o" and "u" alternate until from 1834 Bonkle became the recognised form. I learn that in a record of another sort of more than a century earlier the form "Bunkill" appears, confirming the derivation from the Gaelic "Bunchoille," the hollow at the end of the wood"
The first church in Bonkle was built upon this present site and had accommodation for that 560 members. There cost of the church and Session House was £650 and the Manse £496. An immediate response was made of upwards of £400 in subscriptions and donations - a remarkable achievement in view of the size of the membership. The number signing this very cordial call to the Rev. Andrew Scott was 224. At the close of Reverend David Horn's ministry in 1768 there had been close upon 500 names on the roll. This reduction in numbers had been due, as I pointed out last Sunday, to the forming of other congregations in the 22 parishes from which the Muirkirk first drew its members, and also from a loss of one third of the membership at the time of the controversy between the New Lichts and the Old. In 1842, however, Reverend Mr Scott could write that the membership had almost doubled since 1816 and that they had enjoyed a six and twenty years of "external prosperity and unbroken peace" but this is to anticipate.
They were very human these forefathers of ours. Soon after the removal here we find a reference to a dispute between two prominent members about the occupancy of the back seat below the north end. That matter was settled by a vote at a congregational meeting. In the minute of the same meeting we read "Put a vote of the congregation whether the people in the loaft take up their umbrellas with them when wate (wet), or not, carried that none take them up above the stone stair when wate, and if taking up after this vote of the congregation will be liable for any damages that may occur from wateness that may come on the loaft." They kept their "unbroken peace" by bringing all problems and differences into the light and having them cleared up.
I might say much of the great liberality of the congregation and of their of marked generosity to all good causes. An evidence of that and of the harmony and co-operation in our district is supplied by this reference from the year 1830. "A letter received from Mr Calvin, Cambusnethan Kirk, wishing some assistance for the poor when it was agreed to make two collections for that purpose." The custom of taking offerings for the poor from time to time dates from 1739 in the Muirkirk.
They where practical people. The complaint of excessive heat in the back part of the front loft led to the appointing of a committee to see if a window can be properly put in the middle of the gallery, and another hole in the ceiling if needful. The constant need of finance was intelligently faced, as is revealed by the following: - "Agreed that collectors of seat rents see that every member has a seat and use measures of speaking and writing to have them regularly paid." They were, withal, a tactful people. It was resolved to make intimation from the pulpit, "that no one would put old coppers into the plate at church doors as they are no longer current coin, and are of no value as such." But the intimation was to conclude with the words "Many may have done this in ignorance of the above fact."
Let me now return to speak of the pastor, Reverend Andrew Scott, who was such an influence through all these years. Let us now see him labouring most earnestly in his pulpit preparation, writing out his discourse in shorthand, his lecture and sermon, and then rising at 5 o'clock on the Sunday morning to commit them so accurately to memory that he entered the pulpit without even a note to guide him. Or let us see him finding recreation in his garden, turning what was at first a barren waste into a place of beauty, planting all the trees with his own hands, and living to see them grow up to shelter him.
Let us follow him to prayer meetings later on the Sundays or through the week in places two and three miles off: going and returning on foot summer and winter whatever might be the weather. It was on one of these journeys that a robber, hoping to secure his gold watch, struck him to the ground. The thief, who found to his dismay when he looked at his prize that it was a plain silver watch Mr Scott was carrying that night, went to Canada. From there at a later date he wrote confessing the whole matter and expressing his penitence. The minister frankly forgave him and wrote him again and again letters of wise counsel. It was some time, however, ere Mr Scott recovered his old vigour, and needless to say some members of his family or of his devoted congregation accompanied him on such occasions in the future. Time would fail me to do more than mention the faithfulness of his pastoral work, the keenness of his interests in old and young, as witness the Mutual Instruction Association he formed among young men and the special pains he took it to get the heads of houses to establish family worship, and how, to make sure against being disappointed he would even return at night to begin it himself. Temperance work and every other good cause found in him a ready supporter.
One of his outstanding characteristics was his businesslike methods. I read of the him that he was methodical to a degree rarely equalled. His whole movements were exact as clockwork. His time of rising or retiring to rest, of appearing at table or in the pulpit might have been calculated to a moment. He was never in arrears with pulpit preparation or private correspondence; and his longest letter and shortest note, like his M.S.S. were ever in faultless penmanship, and on unspotted page."
Two outstanding events of his later years were the appointment of his son as colleague and successor in 1859, and the celebration of his jubilee as a minister in the summer of 1865 (The exact date was anticipated by some nine months).
Of the former of these I shall speak next Sunday in connection with the life of Reverend James Henderson Scott. Some account of his Jubilee may suitably close this present address. It was the one occasion, it has been said, on which he "incurred the displeasure of his people." How? you ask. The answer is because of his gracious yet firm refusal to receive any testimonial more costly than an address. The occasion, however, was not allowed to pass, and the public soiree on 18th July, 1865, was one of the red letter days in Bonkle Church.
Ministers from far and near were present, and addresses were presented from the Presbytery, from the congregation, from the Y.M.C.A., from old friends of the congregation, and from the congregation of Stonehouse which he had done so much to found. It is interesting to recall that the opening prayer was offered by his great friend, Reverend William Martin Watt, parish minister of Shotts grandfather of our scoutmaster, Mr Hugh George Watt, and his brother William, while a Reverend Mr Hutton of Cambusnethan parish spoke of him in most brotherly terms as representing all the ministers of the district.
Much must be left unsaid but no account would be complete that did not refer to his gracious and far-reaching influence upon the Presbytery, and his rare conscientiousness in his attendance at its meetings and those of the Synod. From the latter he was not absent through 49 years and he only missed three out of the far more numerous gatherings of the Presbytery, distance or weather never being allowed to stand in his way. He was an expert horseman and rode to Presbytery along with Reverend Mr Patterson of Stonehouse.
A Good Man Passes
On 20th June 1870, he presided at the annual meeting of the congregation. On the 12th July in the 79th year of his age and the fifty-fifth year of his ministry he passed peacefully away. "He was not merely a distinguished divine and preacher: he was something better still, a great and good man." Such is the testimony of Reverend H.A. Paterson of Stonehouse, who knew him intimately. Among his last words were these. " If I sleep it will likely prove the sleep of death; but I can say with the godly woman, if I awake not in their morning, I shall be with the Lord, and if I awake, He will be with me." I close with the words of the memoir already referred to; "not one passing doubt disturbed him; his peace flowed like a river; not one passing cloud obscured his sky 'he sets as sets the Morning Star, which goes not down behind the darkened West... but melts away into the light of Heaven.'"
Bonkle Church from 1859
"The Heather Kirk with the Horn Minister"
Last Sunday the Reverend James Winchester, B.D. continued his series of addresses dealing with the history of Bonkle Church.
He said -
1859 was the year in which Rev. James Henderson Scott was appointed as colleague and successor to his father, Reverend Andrew Scott. 122 years had passed since the congregation started at Davie's Dykes "the Heather Kirk with the Horn minister," as the wags of the day called it. (Heather was used to thatch the church building erected in 1840. Rev. David Horn was the first minister, inducted in 1742.) The controversies of the early Secession days were now dim memories. You had declared yourselves Burghers at the "Breach" in 1747, and "New Lichts" in 1820 as you entered the United. Secession Church you had left the moorlands and had been worshipping for 41 years in Bonkle. You had unanimously welcomed the Union with the Relief Church in 1847 and were now United Presbyterians.
Before speaking of the happy days of the colleagueship at the Manse and the years that followed, let us spend a little longer with these so interesting older records.
First let me speak of old precentors. The first whose name I can trace is James Burns who received 10/- yearly for leading the praise at the Muirkirk from 1792 or earlier until 1799. In 1799 he was succeeded by Ebenezer Loudon (written "Abay" Loudon in one case). For 30 years he occupied the precentor’s desk. He was one of a family which has had representatives in the congregation almost from the beginning of its history until the present day. In 1743 eight elders were ordained and were added to the eight or nine who still remained of the first Kirk Session of 1737. One of these eight was a John Loudon who lived at Dalxiel, and had been a member of the congregation for a year or two. Two of his sons became elders: his older son, James of "Pentie of Shotts," was ordained 1766, and was followed in the eldership in 1806, by his son, Robert, - the great-grandfather of our present member, Mr James Loudon of Penty, and the great-great-grandfather of another member, Mr Jack Loudon. John Loudon's younger son, who resided in the Westertown of Allanton, was ordained elder in 1800. It was his Son, Ebenezer, who was the precentor I have just mentioned. He retired from the precentor's desk in 1830 and became an elder two years later. He was succeeded by his son Robert who left for Glasgow within a year, and was followed by John Loudon, junior of Stane. The salary was growing. The method of finding it was by the taking of two special collections for that purpose from which the average offering was first deducted. In the minute of his appointment appears the instruction that he should " read the line every Sabbath morning." The reading of the Psalms line by line before they were sung by the congregation was a regular practice of those days. In 1853 another John Loudon of Stane succeeded him. At the soiree in connection with the ordination of Reverend James H. Scott we learn that this John Loudon, "chief musician and his band entertained the audience to excellent music." For 28 years he continued to lead the praise, and when in 1881 he was succeeded by a Mr. James Marshall he received a presentation and it was agreed that he be appointed, "Honorary precentor as long as he remains with us." At length, in 1886 Mr R. K. Hinshalwood was asked to take this office and brought to it a fine musical talent and a very gracious personality.
Just before the close of the century in 1899, instrumental music was introduced into our worship, this present organ being presented to the congregation by Mr. James Somerville of Stane and Mr. Thomas Smith, Oakfield, in memory of the late Alexander Smith, elder, Mrs Thomas Smith acting as voluntary organist for a number of years.
I pass now to say a word or two about the post of church officer. In the earliest reference I can find he is known as the Bellman. Let me quote from a minute of congregation of 1819. "Put a vote whether our bellman should have a penny per each seat that was let or a halfpenny, and carried by a great majority a halfpenny." This is followed up by a reference in a minute of the congregation of 1821, as follows:- "The bellman resigned his berth provided that he did not get a penny for each sete that was lett half yearly. It was put to vote and carried that such should be the case." The item "Bellman's pennies" occurs continuously for twenty years even after a stated salary had been agreed upon. Evidently the penny was paid in addition when the seats were re-taken. One occasion for the increase in the officer's salary is of special interest - the introduction of heating into the church. This took place in 1857. Before that date the luxury of a warm church was not thought of. Doubtless the full attendance of those days did something to raise the physical temperature, and I doubt not the spiritual temperature also. £50 was the cost of the first heating installation. It was resolved that four-fifths of the money should be raised before the work was proceeded with, and in four months the whole sum was in hand.
This brings us to 1859 and the appointment of Rev. James Henderson Scott as colleague to his father. He and his three brothers had been educated as a school on Murdostoun Estate, known as Murdostoun School. The teacher was a Mr. Russell of Sedan. The young minister, after a successful career at Glasgow University, had passed to the F.P Hall which then met in Queen Street, Edinburgh. After his licence he taught for about a year at Elgin, travelling thither by stage coach, an inside passenger on account of the indifferent state of his health at the time. It was the urgency of your call that led him to face the work at Bonkle. It is interesting to follow the steps then taken. A colleagueship having been decided upon and the young minister having been enthusiastically chosen, a committee went round the usual districts to see what money could be guaranteed for his stipend. Within four days the response was so satisfactory that the way was open for application to the Presbytery. At the induction soiree Mr. John Inglis (another great-grandfather of Mr. Jack Loudon), on behalf of the ladies of the congregation, presented him with a gold watch and guard. It was between the addresses that night that John Loudon and his band entertained the audience. "Altogether," runs the minute, "it was an evening to be remembered."
For eleven years the father and son worked together in happy harmony. The minutes do not reveal any outstanding happenings. 1861 saw the beginning of the printing and circulating of the abstract of accounts. Those of you who are interested in church finance would enjoyed the perusal of a volume which dates from 1791 and reveals the exactness of our forefathers. In it careful records are kept of the seat letting, and I am hoping by its help to trace some of your ancestors if you care to give me guiding particulars. At first the sittings were particularly the sole source of income, and jealously the right to them was guarded. They where divided into dasks (squares) and the volume is prefaced by a minute of the Associated Community of Cambusnethan called "in consideration of the debates that had arisen in setting of seats, and in order to prevent all debates for the future." It states that no collector for a dask has any power of putting out any of his sitters" they paying their money due to him in due time and behaving orderly." When the vacancies occurred he was allowed to choose his sitters providing they be Seceders. However, on 3rd July, 1816, it was agreed that strangers, whether Seceders or not, shall be accommodated with seats as liberally as members, except when members cannot be accommodated with seats. You note the date, 1816, and you will join with me in the "shrewd suspicion" that this forward move was due to the coming of the new minister, Reverend Andrew Scott, who had just been appointed. When the collector left his dask the vacancy was filled by the appointment of the oldest seatholder of the dask. Further, it was decreed that if seats were not retaken against the day fixed for that purpose "it shall be lawful to the community to set them to such as will take them."
I spoke last Sunday of the jubilee of the Rev. Andrew Scott in 1865. In 1870 the happy comradeship of father and son was broken by the death of the former. I would like to add to what I have already said in that connection that £80 was subscribed for the monumental stone erected to his memory by a devoted people.
A reference to the securing of an old house belonging to John Russell for stabling accommodation, reminds us of the many places around where horses were put up by the farmer members of that, and of an earlier, day.
In 1872 came the first ominous sign that a new church would soon be required. The West wall was in danger and was forthwith supported by strong wooden stays. The resolution to build was made next year, and when a vote was taken between spreading the collection over four years or trying to raise the money in one year, the majority voted for the quick mode, and in three months promises of £617 were recorded. For the next four years, however, animated discussion went on regarding many details. In 1875 Reverend Mr Scott urged that the new Church be built at Newmains. (Coltness Memorial Church was not opened until 1878). This idea was departed from. At length in the spring of 1878 the old church was closed and taken down almost to the foundation, and the church in which we now are was built upon the same site and was opened on Christmas Day by the Rev Joseph Brown, DD, Glasgow. On the following Sunday the minister was joined by Reverend Professor Robert Johnson, DD, of Edinburgh, and Reverend A Alston, Carluke. On the first Sunday of 1879 communion was celebrated. The church was opened free of debt at a cost of about £1,600. The report of this occasion in the United Presbyterian Magazine, after drawing attention to the "chaste, yet elegant" style of the building, refers to the stone sculptured offertory, the work and gift of Mr John Loudon (Elder and Foreign Mission Treasurer) with its inscription "God loveth a cheerful giver," and continues, "a lesson seemingly anticipated as the offertory received on the two opening days the sum of £162." A very interesting gathering took place at the manse before the month was out, when Mr Alex. Hinshelwood, who had acted as architect gratuitously, and had been so helpful an adviser throughout these years, was presented with a gold watch and chain, and his wife with a gold brooch, tokens of the warm appreciation of the congregation. Mr Alexander Hinshelwood was the father of our present members, Messrs Alex. and James Hinshelwood who also trace a family connection with David Downie, the elder who presented the protest in 1737 before the Hamilton Presbytery against the intrusion of Reverend William Craig to Cambusnethan church. Mr Hinshelwood was reminded, jokingly, that the gift had a "prospective as well as a retrospective bearing”, and we soon find him guiding the building of a new Session House, Vestry and Ladies' Room at a cost of £260, the gift of Ex-Provost Morton, of Greenock, a former member of the congregation.
I must reserve for another address, which I would hope to give on the evening of Sunday, 19th September, what I have to say about the qualities of mind and heart of Reverend James Henderson Scott. Let me close now by turning the thoughts of all of us, and the memories of some of you, to that memorable Saturday afternoon in June, 1909, when in the fair setting of a our church grounds the members of the congregation and many friends from far and near gathered to celebrate his jubilee as a minister. It is recorded as one of the outstanding events in the history of the parish. Reverend Andrew Alston, Carluke, presented him with an illuminated address from the Presbytery of Lanark, and Mr William Wilkinson, Session Clerk, handed over a cheque for £330 from the congregation and friends, together with a silver kettle for Mrs Scott. On that happy note I may suitably end the present address.
- - -
In his address to the children Mr Winchester told them of the visit of Miss Slessor of Old Calabar, "the white Queen of Okoyong," to Bonkle Manse. She and Mrs. Scott were friends of a long standing. She brought with her, in 1897, Dan, a black boy of six years, one of the twins whom she had saved. He also recalled that when she was thanking Mr R. K Hinshelwood, the precentor, for the pleasure the singing had given her, he presented her with his tuning fork. After being in constant use in Africa this tuning fork is among the relics of her still preserved. ("The White Queen of Okoyong." by W P Livingstone, page 153.) The Bonkle Sunday school children, he said, still send £5 yearly to provide the upkeep and training of one of Dan's successors at the Old Calabar Mission.
More about Bonkle Church
At the evening service in Bonkle Church last Sunday the Reverend James Winchester, BD, continued his review of the history of the church. He said -
I closed my last address with a reference to the jubilee of the Reverend James Henderson Scott in 1909 (not 1919 as I gave it then by a slip of the pen). How much he was esteemed is revealed by the generous gift of £330 presented to him. It was characteristic of the man that he did not want any special notice to be taken of the occasion, and so one gets no idea from the church records of that time how much had been raised. I am indebted for that interesting detail to a notice in the local press at the time of his death eight years later. These eight remaining years of his life were full of happy activity. He formally retired the next year, and was succeeded by Rev. George Frazer, MA. When, however, a happy co-operation with the young minister was interrupted in 1915 by the enlistment of the latter in His Majesty's Forces for war service, Mr Scott took again a very active part in the pastoral care of the congregation, and I find him presiding at a meeting of Kirk Session as moderator-depute and assisting at the Communion service as late as 18th February, 1917, a month before he passed away at the age of 83 years.
A Gracious Personality
As you can well understand, there is a notable tribute to his memory in the Session minutes and also in the local press. His funeral service was conducted by Rev. Jack Sumerville Smith, MA of the North Woodside UF Church, Glasgow, who had been reared under his ministry and belonged to a family whose members have for several generations been closely identified with the work of the congregation. From these references and from conversations with many of our older members and fellow townsmen, I have endeavoured to build up some of the picture of him - an outline into which some of you will be able to weave more personal and intimate details of his gracious life and service among you.
First, then, let us look at his portrait and note the clear-cut features, the high forehead, the alert and kindly eyes and the erect and courtly bearing. Now I am picturing that vigorous figure, known everywhere as an untiring pedestrian, his jacket over his arm, toiling on upon foot far and near. You might meet him on his road to the Presbytery at Lanark, or early on a Sunday Morning walking as far as Stonehouse for pulpit duty there. Never would he bring man or beast into unnecessary labour on the Day of Rest. His well-trained walking powers stood him in a good stead in his pastoral care of a widely scattered flock. His faithful attention during sickness and his frequent cottage meetings even in remote districts are gratefully remembered. He was also a pioneer in his day in open air preaching. He had a singular indifference to adverse weather conditions when need arose. We are told that "no road was too long for him to go, no storm or tempest too severe for him to face, no night too dark or morning too early to hinder him."
You will realise from what I have said that he was a man of very decided views. His pulpit message was clear and definite. He commended a Saviour of whose saving power he was very sure, and he called on his people to honour a loving Heavenly Father by faithful and uncompromising obedience to His holy will. But along with his personal strictness there went a wide toleration of the views of other people, and his friendship with men of all parties did much to make his influence the power it was in the community. The Foreign Mission cause was very dear to him.
"Hearts like those of Mary Slessor warmed themselves at the fire of the missionary sympathy of Bonkle Manse and Church."
I have already spoken of Miss Slessor's visit to Bonkle. Here is another quotation from Livingston's "The White Queen of Okoyong": "That's the Bonkle Heather. Oh the kind hearts there!"
One of his distinctive features was his humility. It came about characteristically on the day of the jubilee celebrations of which I have spoken. When remarks were made in his praise, he said "the speakers must be thinking of the father while speaking of his son," and he asks for those who were to follow on the program to please "hold as read" anything of a personal nature. The reference to his father reminds me that the son was like the sire an early riser. His day also frequently began at 5 am.
In his moving address spoken at his funeral service Reverend Mr Sumerville Smith lays emphasis on three other aspects of his many-sided life. His was a keen advocacy of the cause of temperance in a day when that involved much opposition and required no little courage. He love of the Bible so much that "You could not sit under his ministry without feeling that nothing mattered except the testimony of the Scriptures," while most impressive in his pulpit work was his power in prayer. "The awe and radiance of the Ineffable Glory where always there, there was reverence without remoteness. There was intimacy without familiarity. We thank God at every remembrance of this prayer ministry." To this let me add one sentence from the beautiful tribute in the minutes of Kirk Session: "No one could be associated with him without feeling that he lived in Christ and Christ lived in him." We in Bonkle Church have a great heritage in such memories. With the ministry of Reverend George Frazer, which began 10th November 1910, we turn to another chapter of your eventful story as a congregation. Its first years reveal the young and virile minister rallying around him the young life of the congregation. We read of the successful Bible class work, of special evening sermons to young men, and of the starting of our Boy Scout troop with the minister as first Scoutmaster. Then there comes like a thunderclap the outbreak of war, and this is followed by the early enlistment of your minister in the fighting forces.
The minutes contain many echoes from these memorable years. We learn of the scarcity of preachers. Rev. Robert Macgregor has only been a year with you as locum tenens when he is called up under the Derby Scheme. You obtain his exemption and he continues with the congregation until December 1916. A reference to the lighting restrictions, making evening meetings impossible during the winter, and a discussion regarding insurance against air raids, carry our thoughts back to the anxieties of that time.
Many of you will have interesting memories of the period during which you had a single church service at 3pm conducted by Rev. Stewart D. Gray, MA, who was then minister of Law UF Church.
Letter of Sympathy
In June, 1918 I find the Kirk Session sending a letter of warm sympathy to Rev. Mr Frazer as he lies in a hospital in France, an invalid from gassing. From that hospital three months later Mr Frazer regretfully tenders the resignation of his pastorate here, a step taken by him in view of the difficulties you were facing, the problem of his own future, and the uncertainty as to how long the war might linger on. He expresses his deep regret at the thought of disassociating himself from all his friends at Bonkle and in the highest interests of the congregation, he considers this step the proper one to take. Regretfully also the congregation acquiesce in this decision, and at a special meeting of the congregation you unanimously express yourselves: "The congregation desire to place on record their warm appreciation of Rev. George Frazer's services in Bonkle Church from the date of his ordination in November, 1910, till February, 1915, when he felt it was his duty to respond to his country's call to join the King's Forces as a combatant. They seek to assure him of their high regard for him and their continued interest in his welfare. They pray that God may spare him to return to the homeland at the end of the war and that there may open up for him a congenial sphere in which he may resume the work of the ministry."
Reverend Mr Frazer is now, as you know, the Minister of Stoneyburn, and it is an interesting coincidence that this afternoon he was with us addressing the meeting in connection with the 25th anniversary of the formation of our Troop of Boy Scouts of which he was the first Scoutmaster.
Items of Another Kind
Let me now set a few items of another kind against the background of these years of war. At the June Communion, 1914, you introduced the individual cup into the Communion service. In 1917 there came a welcome legacy of £100 from Mr William Gladstone, Bo'ness, the income from which still forms part of our benevolent fund. On 18th January 1918, there was a semi-jubilee presentation to Reverend Dr. Robertson of Coltness Memorial Church at which our Kirk Session was represented by the late R. K. Hinshelwood and Mr William Wilkinson. They had been then upwards of 20 years together in the Kirk Session.
It is of interest to note in passing that, when two years later Dr Robertson delivered his farewell address in Coltness, our evening service was combined for the occasion with theirs. It was a happy precedent which has been frequently followed, most recently by our sister church last Sunday evening in connection with the visit of Professor Lamont to Bonkle church.
Among the notable events of these years a place must be found for the recognition by the Kirk Session of the 60 years eldership in Bonkle Church of Mr John Inglis. The minutes of 12th January, 1914, states that at one time or another he had occupied all the important offices of the church open to him and had given a wholehearted and life-long devotion to the interests of the congregation and the church at large. He was presented with an illuminated address. Two months later he passed away. (He had been presented with an a illuminated address in 1902.)
The Rev. George Frazer was succeeded in the ministry here by Reverend Alexander Gillies, minister of Ford, Midlothian, whom you called on 22nd January, 1919. Of his ministry I hope to say something next Sunday evening in a closing address.
I cannot, however, bring to a close this address which has turned our thoughts to the years of the Great War without recalling the generous and self-denying way in which you helped through your Work Party and in other ways with soldiers' parcels, hospital comforts and Red Cross collections, and all other means by which you could show your interest in the men at the front. Many of you will recall the "garden party" held at Allanton on Saturday, 6th September, 1919, at which you gave a royal "welcome home" to those who had been on service from the congregation. It was a memorable day of rejoicing, shadowed by a remembrance of those of your number who came not back, having made the great sacrifice and whose names are inscribed on this handsome tablet on my left-hand.
History of Bonkle Church
Ministry of Rev. A. Gillies
Beginning of Allanton Mission
Last Sunday evening the Rev. James Winchester, BD, gave his closing address in the series dealing with the history of Bonkle Church during the 200 years of its existence. Mr Winchester has taken great pains in this work of research and his informative addresses have been listened to and read with great appreciation. Last Sunday he dealt with the ministry of the Rev. Alex. Gillies, and the founding of Allanton Mission Church. He said -
It was on 22nd January, 1919, that you called Rev. Alex. Gillies of Ford U.F. Church, Midlothian, to be your minister. He was inducted two months later, and so he began an able and devoted ministry here which he carried on until in the month of February, 1935, he passed to his rest and his reward. I wish in this address to recall something of the story of the congregation through these sixteen years, and something also of him who so ably guided you in spiritual things and who has left so gracious a memory among you.
After the War
Congregational life and activity had been much interfered with here as elsewhere during the war, and the first task of the new minister was to rally your forces and seek to lead you into that time of new beginnings. He was well qualified for this great opportunity. It is true that he had not been with you during the war years in those experiences which so closely bound pastor and people together, but he had deeply learned the lessons of that time both at Ford and during his service with the Y.M.C.A., as a hut leader in France, and as staff secretary of the National Council of the YMCA in Edinburgh. He and Mrs Gillies mourned the loss in France of their eldest son, David. Reference to David Gillies brings to my mind a photograph of him which I saw recently, as a little lad surrounded by South Sea islanders - thoroughly at home among them. So our thoughts are carried to the far-off Pacific to the Island of Tanna in the New Hebrides where Mr and Mrs Gillies began their married life as missionaries in the wake of well-known pioneers such as John Williams of Erromanga and John G. Paton of Aniwa.
For four strenuous years they laboured among the natives of Tanna under the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Many of you will remember hearing from his lips of the work there, and of the wonderful influence of the Gospel upon many a heathen heart. You have seen lantern slides of the Mission Church, well filled on Sundays with worshippers who delighted so much in singing that they gathered night after night at the manse to learn the "English hymns." So expert did Mr Gillies become with the native language that when a revision of the Scriptures in their tongue was required he assisted greatly in the work.
Many of you will know much more than I about the notable service your minister and his wife rendered there, but you may not all realise how real were the perils to which they were exposed, especially when there was war between the native tribes.
I learn how at times the position of the writing desk by day and of the bed by night had to be constantly changed lest a native spear should find the occupant
It is true of the nature of your minister that he made light of these things when speaking of his work there. I want us to pay tribute tonight to his heroism. During all this time Mr Gillies suffered from malaria, having attacks as often as three times a week. At length it became clear that he must retire from his service abroad, and he returned to Scotland. The way opened up immediately for his settlement at Ford where he was minister for 18 years, acting for part of the time as Clerk of Presbytery. He thus came to Bonkle very fully equipped through a most varied experience.
The minutes of the annual congregational meeting of February, 1920, tell of the "satisfactory state of the finances due in a great measure to the impetus of our new minister." That same year saw the unveiling of the two tablets that adorn our church wall, the memorial to those who fell in the Great War and that to the memory of Rev. James Henderson Scott. By a happy inspiration there is combined with the latter a memorial reference to his father, Rev. Andrew Scott, which thus preserves the record of the unique fact that the ministries in your midst of father and son, which overlapped for 11 years, extended from 9th April, 1816, to 17 March, 1917, a period of almost 101 years.
Young Men's Club
One of the special developments which Rev. Mr Gillies organised was the Young Men's Club, the meetings of which through several years form a very interesting memory to many of you. The early success of this association is revealed by the fact that the young men were able in 1921 to place a sum of £62-10/- in the treasurer's hands with a view to providing better hall accommodation. Thus early did active interest begin in that extension of our halls which is now being realised. It is interesting to find that the idea of a new vestry was also brought up in 1924.
Another and more interesting problem, however, demanded attention, and references are frequent to the state of the manse. The question of its reconstruction had a real impetus in 1928 when the sum of £200 was received from Mr Thomas Steel, Narmount, Greenock, who had been born at Summerside, and presented this gift in memory of his parents and because of their life-long connection with Bonkle Church. He expressed the desire that the money might be used to make the manse more comfortable for the minister. A committee was at once appointed to consider what was necessary to be done. Six months later a call came to Mr Gillies to Anderson Church, Blantyre. To your great satisfaction he refused it. These circumstances helped to accelerate the plans for the reconstruction of the manse, which was carried out in 1929 at a cost of £1,200.
To return to the Young Men's Club, I understand that it developed into what was known as the Social Guild open to young women as well as young men. Out from this at length arose a regular Ladies' Work Party which assumed the name of the Woman's Guild after the Union of the Churches in 1929. These movements owed very much to the fostering and stimulus of your minister.
These years saw the passing away of two greatly esteemed elders, Mr Robert Smith in 1927 at the age of 81 years, and Mr Robert M. Montgomerie in 1930; and grateful reference is made in the minutes to their faithful services. Warm tribute is also paid to the work of Mr Robert Inglis in many departments of the church work in your midst, on the occasion of his demitting office as congregational treasurer in 1929. In an illuminated address presented to him reference is made to his 20 years' occupancy of that office and his 32 years as member of Kirk Session.
A prominent place is given in our records to the development of the mission cause at Allanton. The first reference is in 1926 when you appoint the minister and two elders to act on a Joint Advisory Committee along with representatives from Dykehead, Calderhead and Cambusnethan Churches. Under the guidance of this committee Mr Dunwoodie, the missionary, carried on his work with the Welfare Hall as its centre, until the present handsome mission premises were built. They were dedicated on Tuesday, 9th October, 1928, when the Rev J Montgomery Campbell, DD, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Rev J Miller, CBE, DD, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Free Church, both took part in the proceedings. Rev. John Hall, OBE., DD Home Mission Secretary, conducted the opening service on Sunday 14th October. Rev. Mr Gillies was clerk to the Advisory Committee, and the minutes of its activities in his vigorous handwriting reveal the very large amount of work this entailed during the days of planning and building.
In 1931, at your request as a congregation, Bonkle Church was transferred from the Lanark Presbytery to that of Hamilton, and Allanton Church was then uncluded in your Parish. As a natural consequence we find the Hamilton Presbytery on 7th July, 1932, discharging the Advisory Committee and placing the Mission at Allanton under the control and supervision of Bonkle Kirk Session.
After a further two years of faithful work Mr Dunwoodie was transferred to Blantyre and was succeeded early in 1935 by Mr Thomas J. Weeks. Mr Weeks gave devoted service there until his transfer to Braehead a month ago, when I had the pleasure along with a deputation of our Kirk Session of introducing the new missionary, Mr John Cobb.
I have had frequent reason to speak of the liberality of the congregation in times gone by. Your forefathers built four successive churches, two at Davie's Dykes in 1740 and 1780, and two at Bonkle in 1818 and in 1878. Bonkle Church has always been known also for its liberality to all good causes, especially to Foreign Mission. You carried on the same ideals during these years of which I am now speaking. You are seeking to carry them on today. In the last nine years in addition to the upkeep of the congregational work and your generous support of schemes at home and abroad, you have met extraordinary expenditure of £1,600. The largest item in that connection was the reconstruction of the manse, to which I have already referred, at a cost of £1,200. The other special efforts included the purchase of the church feu, the cleaning and painting of the church, the installation of electric light in church and manse, and last year the installation of a new heating system, while you are this year meeting further claims in connection with the reconstruction of our halls.
The carving round the offertory at the church door, as I mentioned recently, reads, "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver." It is a message that many of you have evidently fully taken to heart.
Since my coming among you I have learned much of the sure place which Mr Gillies had made for himself in the hearts of old and young alike. Last Sunday evening I tried to give you some picture of Rev. James Henderson Scott. A more difficult task lies before me now as I endeavour to say something of my immediate predecessor. Most of you have had personal knowledge of Mr Gillies, while mine must be at the best second-hand, and thus you may miss a reference to qualities which you specially prized.
I have studied his portrait and have seen there the evidence of the alert, gracious warm-hearted personality who radiated goodwill and good humour wherever he went. He carried with him, as you know, a physical thorn in the flesh in the attacks of asthma which frequently assailed him, a heritage from his years in Tanna, but no word of complaint ever fell from his lips, no limitations of the flesh were ever allowed to hinder the impulses of the spirit to serve and gladden his fellows. You bear constant testimony to the eloquence of his preaching, the ability of his administrative work, his unfailing interest in the young, his constant care of the sick and aged, and his watchfulness over all the needs of the congregation. He was known far beyond your borders. He brought special talents to his work on the Lanarkshire Education Authority. He presided over the local Nursing Committee. He was connected with the Social Service Association and the Old Folk's Treat in Newmains, and he acted as padre to the Wishaw group of Toc H. He was also a member of the Freemason Lodge St Clair. One of his speciality interests was the Boy Scout movement, and he was chairman of the Local Association and Assistant District Commissioner. His work on the Re-adjustment of Agencies Committees was specially prized both in the Lanark Presbytery and in our own. To all those varied interests he brought inspiration and wise guidance. You rejoiced with him when his term as Moderator of the Hamilton presbytery seemed to put the crown on a long life of service. His death, early in 1935, came with a deep sense of personal loss to you all. From my conversations about him with many of you I find that the outstanding remembrances of him are his loveable nature, his winning personality, his never-failing fund of good humour and the high standard he set before him in all his pulpit work. We well may cherish the inspiring memory he has left behind.
I have found great interest and pleasure in preparing this outline of the story of our congregation. I am conscious of its many imperfections. There are names of faithful workers that might well have been mentioned, but for the limitation I had to impose upon myself to speak only of what seemed most outstanding in the history. I shall be glad to be told of things I have overlooked or omitted. The pleasant task has enabled me to steep myself in your traditions. They are a precious heritage to us all. On them let us build, bringing of our best, that the structure of the Church Invisible in our midst may rise in strength of individual character and inward grace and beauty, bound together by that brotherliness which is the true unifying power. We cannot but feel that through all these 200 years a loving Divine Guidance has been upon our way. Looking up we say "Our fathers God and our God," and we go forward in the inspiration of the promise of our Lord and Saviour, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
Special bi-centenary services where held in Bonkle Church on Sunday and were conducted by the Very Reverend Professor Daniel Lamont, DD, Edinburgh. There were large and most appreciative congregations, former members of Bonkle Church having come a long way to be present. Preaching from Psalm 100, verse 4 - "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving" - Dr Lamont made appropriate reference to the special occasion, so full of memories and inspirations. Mr Winchester expressed the appreciation of his Kirk Session of the friendly action of Coltness Memorial Church in uniting their evening service with that of Bonkle Church that night. He welcomed Miss Lauder, organist, and Miss Castle on their return from a three month trip to South Africa, and cordially thanked Miss MacDonald for her most kind and efficient help at the organ, and also Mr William Robertson and Miss Forrest, Allanton, for their valued assistance. All felt that the occasion had been worthily celebrated by the inspiring services of this most distinguished scholar and preacher. Mr Winchester will continue the story of Bonkle Church at the evening service next Sunday.
Wishaw Press, September 28th 1937
At the bi-centenary Communion on Sunday, Reverend Mr Winchester will be assisted by Very Reverend R J Drummond, DD Lothian Rd, Edinburgh, who will also conduct the evening service at 6.30. Dr Drummond, who is an ex-Moderator of General Assembly, is one of His Majesty's special preachers Scotland. These services on Sunday bring to a close one aspect of the bi-centenary celebrations. There will further be held an "At Home" on Wednesday, 30th November, at which one of the speakers will be Reverend John A F Dean, MA, anyway, formerly of Chalmers Church, Wishaw. The members of Mr Dean's present congregation at Erskine Church, Falkirk, are also celebrating the bi-centenary of their church this year.